Monday, August 22, 2022

Almost, I Can Hear the Singing

It's okay not to know where you are,
the poet said.
It's also okay to know,
to understand that I am poised
at the edge of the riverbank,
the ferryman coming
around the bend.

The woman said, when she
came back from death, she
had found herself crossing
a great plain towards a river.
She could hear the ferryman
and the people on board, singing.
She did not climb aboard.
Instead, she came back
to tell the tale.

So I stand on the riverbank,
knowing the ferryman
is on his way.
What I have is this day and,
with great luck, the next,
in which to love
this beautiful wild world,
this wide sky.
Almost, almost, I can hear
the singing.

But it's not time yet.
Not yet.

This morning six fat robins
are perching plumply
on the branches
of the cherry tree.
I put my birdsong cd
on the stereo,
crack the window
so they can hear,
hoping they'll join in.
Almost, I can hear the singing,
their little hearts, and mine,
so full of gratitude
and joy.

The incident I relate is true. A friend of my grandma's told her this story about her near-death experience. I have never forgotten it.

For  Brendan's challenge at earthweal: River, Gone, which is about the disappearing rivers turning into dry riverbeds around the world. I conjured a different kind of river - or maybe it is the same kind, after all. Death, whichever way you look at it. 


  1. I love those last 4 lines especially.
    And how wonderful to think of the ferryboat as being full of singing.

    1. I think so.

      This summer I was supposed to have helped some elders, not mine, with a garden. Did not happen; both of the men were hospitalized with congestive heart failure. (Right after a glyphosate spraying incident, yes.) Both of them came home.

      The one time I've talked to one of them since, the one who's a Christian, he said, "I woke up in that hospital and said, 'Why did you bring me back? I was going to Heaven!'"

  2. The hesitation here I think sings the rivers back -- their time of vanishing is not done yet. And we are so blessed to have your voice still in our choir!

  3. I am glad you can revel in the beauty of birdsong even in the wake of such mournful singing. The use of the river and ferryman image is particularly poignant, Sherry.

  4. I suspect Lethe is ever-full and ready. We need not rush toward it, as you make so clear here. Linger! Listen to the Robins! Write ten more reams of poems.

  5. Young people wouldn't understand this. So there are some good things about being middle-aged. This is a beautiful thought.


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